How can you differentiate your company to put it on the path toward competitive advantage and sustainable business success? That’s the subject I recently talked about with Chip Conley, founder & CEO of Joie De Vivre Hospitality and author of PEAK: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo.
The old answers and approaches are no longer enough. As Chip put it, “One of the things that companies are looking for is how to differentiate themselves, and companies that succeed do not tend to do so by following the pack. So one of the most important elements of successful or peak-performing businesses is how you differentiate yourself.”
Chip observed, “Now twenty-five years ago in the early era of high tech becoming a bigger part of our lives, some companies were able to differentiate themselves in many ways by utilizing technology. That’s still true today, but what’s happening with each passing year is that technology is becoming the great leveler. Whoever has the lead, six months later, everyone else is catching up with them.”
So what has Chip found to replace the reliance on technology to create a company differentiation that can lead to success? It’s about human relationships and meaning.
Chip describes it this way: “In some ways the irony is that, even in our very high tech era, the differentiator in companies is actually the depth of loyalty created in the relationships within the organization – whether the relationship is between the company and its employee, the company and its customer or the company and its investors or vendors or community – whichever are the most important relationships that a company relies on. So (his book) PEAK in a nutshell speaks to the idea of how we actually create deep loyalty in our relationships with our employees, our customers and our investors by focusing on the higher needs of those three constituencies.”
Those relationships are infused with great energy when people find meaning in their work – and are motivated by inner drives rather than outer rewards.
Chip explained further:
“The PEAK model speaks to meaning via the idea, like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid with its five levels of motivation, that there are levels of motivation that companies can focus on. But I’ve reduced it to just three. These three themes are survival (level 1), success (level 2), and transformation (level 3) as people move up the pyramid. The employee pyramid is about money (1), recognition (2) and meaning (3). So meaning is the transformative nature at the top of the pyramid for employees.”
“When employees have a sense of meaning in what they do and what their organization does, that gives them an experience of inspiration. And what’s different regarding meaning or inspiration as opposed to money or recognition (the two lower levels on that pyramid) is that money and recognition are sort of like toys and titles – they are external motivators. At these two lower levels, generally people need to be motivated externally by someone giving them additional compensation or additional recognition.”
“The thing about meaning (the highest level) is that meaning is an “inside job.” It’s an internal inspiration or intrinsic motivator as opposed to an extrinsic motivator. So when organizations can move their employees up that pyramid, so that they are less focused on external motivation and more focused on internal motivation, then what comes from that is a truly empowered workplace where the power of the people is driven internally as opposed to based upon some kind of bartering relationship between the company and its employees.”
In my book Noble Enterprise: The Commonsense Guide to Uplifting People and Profits, I address this dimension. The power of “Larger Purpose” is the first of five pillars of a Noble Enterprise that attracts and inspires great employees. (More info.)
If you’d like to learn how Chip does this at Joie de Vivre, you can read the entire interview in a recent issue of our free newsletter Leading in a New Light.
To learn more about Chip, his company Joie de Vivre and his book PEAK: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow, go to www.chipconley.com.